Architecture, Measure, and the Defence of Modular Poesy
This chapter examines Greville’s ‘architectonical art’ in his treatise poems: both his use of architectural imagery and proportionate form, and his engagement with Sir Philip Sidney’s discussion, following Aristotle, of poetry’s relationship to the architectonic ‘mistress-knowledge’ of ethics, politics, and virtue, in the Defense of Poesy. The essay begins by establishing the close relationship of Greville’s Dedication to Sidney’s ideas and the Defense, and reads the Dedication as an emulation of the kind of exemplary narrative which Sidney advocated. It then examines the contrast in the ‘characteristical’ poetics of Sidney, which aim to inculcate virtue through example, and the ‘modular’ poetics of the treatise poems, which teach through precept and formal device. The closing passages offer a close reading of the first stanza of Caelica 6 as exemplary of Greville’s engagement with Sidney and his practice of a modular poetics based on ideas of proportion and measure as ethically exemplary.
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